If you are planning to attend a graduate school, you’re probably aware of the official GRE test. While many dread it, following these GRE test prep suggestions will help you ace the GRE General Test.
What Is the GRE?
The GRE is an educational testing service used by graduate schools to sort through applications. GRE stands for Graduate Record Examination. It examines college graduates’ knowledge and abilities to determine if they are good candidates for graduate-level programs.
Who Needs to Take the GRE?
Graduates who want to pursue their master’s degrees are the primary GRE test takers. Nearly every university and institution requires applicants to supply their GRE scores for graduate school admissions.
The GRE tells graduate school admissions officers whether the test taker will find success in their master’s degree path. Each school and major differs in their personal requirements for GRE scores.
Not every program requires students to take the GRE, but it is strongly recommended for most MBA programs at business and graduate schools. Even for programs that do not require a GRE score, completing the GRE test is a great way to prove your qualifications.
What is a Good GRE Score?
MBA school applicants need to be able to score pretty well in all sections. Getting a high GRE score for something as diverse as business shows that you have what it takes to succeed in a competitive job market.
The short answer is that it depends on several factors.
While studying for the GRE, keep in mind that this exam doesn’t grade like other standardized tests. Each section of the GRE scores in the 130 to 170 range.
According to whichever program and school you are applying to, higher scores in individual sections carry more weight. For example, if you specialize in engineering, your quantitative section scores will have more significance than your analytical writing section scores.
Earning the Best GRE Score
To earn a coveted top scoring position in the 10% of test-takers, you will want a target score from 163 to 170 in the verbal section, 165 to 170 in the quantitative section, and 5.0 to 6.0 in the analytical writing section.
Below average GRE general test scores are 151 and below in the verbal section, 152 and below for the quantitative section, and 3.5 or below for the analytical writing section. So how do you ensure that you hit your target score and avoid below average GRE scores?
What Is on the GRE Test?
All the test questions on the GRE are computer generated and are part of one of three sections. The test consists of an analytical writing section, a math section called quantitative reasoning, and a verbal section.
GRE Section: Analytical Writing
On the GRE general test, the analytical writing section is split into two 30 minute halves. The first half focuses on analyzing an issue and presenting your opinion on it. The second half focuses on analyzing an argument and giving your critique of the argument. These are both achieved by writing your points, which is a useful test for those applying to writing programs.
These two halves are designed to complement each other. One is delivering an argument and the other is critiquing an argument, proving your ability to do both. Students are not allowed to use any sort of spelling or grammar checkers on their work. So, be sure to check your work prior to submitting it.
GRE Section: Quantitative Reasoning
The quantitative reasoning portion is often referred to as the GRE math section, as it is designed to test your basic mathematical skills. This part of the test is primarily multiple-choice, though there are questions that must be answered by typing in a numerical value.
In this portion of the GRE, you will be tested in four subjects: arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis. Each of these sections may be presented as either word problems, in which the math is applied to real-world situations, or pure mathematical problems.
GRE Section: Verbal Reasoning
The GRE verbal reasoning test focuses on your abilities to evaluate and coherently summarize written materials. Half of this section is devoted to you reading passages and answering questions about the passages. The other half is for you to read, interpret, and complete sentences and paragraphs.
There are three types of questions that will be seen in this section: reading comprehension, text completion, and sentence equivalence. All of these together are designed to ensure you can read at a college level and comprehend what you have read.
GRE Test Prep: How to Prepare for the Graduate Record Examination
Everyone prepares for testing differently. But when test day rolls around, you will be thankful to have had some sort of study plan in place. Some of the best and most recommended ways to study for the GRE include taking GRE practice tests and enrolling in GRE prep courses.
GRE Practice Tests and Prep Courses
The official GRE website has practice tests available for anyone to use. These tests cover all the sections and include the tools that you can use on the actual GRE.
There are also GRE prep courses you can find and enroll in. Prep courses are set up in a way that is similar to private tutoring. These often help you better understand the test itself and how it is scored. They also prepare you with practice tests and questions so that you have a rounded knowledge of the GRE.
To access many of these prep courses, you will have to pay to enroll in them. While it may make you cringe to spend money on studying, these courses are extremely useful to many when preparing for the test. However, if you feel that this is an unnecessary cost to you, there are plenty of free materials available to help you study.
Free Study Materials
For those who are uninterested in paying for a prep course, some free materials available can be just as helpful. The official GRE website offers two free practice tests you can take. You’ll also find introductory and review books that cover all formats of the GRE.
You can also download the GRE general test study guide for free, which includes an overview of the GRE test and what is included in it. The study guide also helps you determine what kind of learner you are to choose the best study practices for your type.
If you want to know the topics the writing portion may include, ETS provides a pool of potential topics available for free. By going through these topics, you can write practice arguments and gain a better understanding of what might show up on the test.
Other great free materials available include pre-made Quizlet sets, Magoosh’s vocabulary cards, Khan Academy videos. You can search through all theses to cover the topics you will encounter on the GRE. And many, such as the Quizlet sets, are made by others who have taken the GRE.
Tips and Strategies
The best strategy for acing the GRE test is to ensure you know everything you can about the test and prepare for it. By completing practice tests and questions, you can gain an idea of what the test will consist of.
Be sure you understand exactly what the procedure is for the test. The exact setup differs based on the format you choose, but you will have allotted time for breaks in between the sections. Utilize these breaks to give your brain time to rest and prepare for the next section of the test.
The GRE is unique in that you are allowed to skip more difficult questions and return to them at the end of your test. It is recommended that you do this because of the time constraints. If you can answer more questions correctly and miss one, that is preferable to missing many because you were stuck on one question.
During the test, be sure to review your answers before submitting the test. Studies show that GRE test-takers who utilize the opportunity to review their answers tend to score higher on the test. Even if you are confident in your selections, reviewing them only takes a few minutes and can greatly improve your score.
Is Studying for the GRE Necessary?
When beginning to prepare for exams like the GRE, you may be wondering if you even need to study for it. After all, you can retake it if you fail, and this is all information and skills you have learned throughout your years in college. So, is it truly necessary for you to spend weeks studying?
For some, the answer is no. If you feel completely confident in your skills, then there is no need to spend much time studying. It could be helpful for you to review some Quizlet sets or a practice test. But if you don’t feel the need to study, you can just take the test.
But if you are the type of person that needs to be as prepared as possible, you should spend a few weeks studying. Some people cram their studying into just a few days before the test while others begin studying up to a few months before it.
As soon as you know you are going to take the GRE, you should begin looking at test prep materials. Once you have an idea of what’s on the test, you can determine how long you need to study before taking the exam.
By using these materials and techniques, you are setting yourself up for great success when taking the GRE test. Just be sure to give yourself enough time to study!
This articles features contributions from Career Karma staff writer Bryan Wirtz.